Local Magic: Creating Magic in Your Locality
What type of earth magic exists where you are? What is the local nature of air, fire and water? How do you make magic with the living forces all around you – not as they appear in books, but as you see and experience them when you step outside your front door? Every locality has its own flavours, energies and secrets… and when we work our magic and ritual in alignment with our locality we enter deep into the earth’s living magic.
I just spent two months in the United States and got to see spring in three different places. Really, I got to see three different springs.
My first spring was in San Francisco, which was unaccountably hot. The last time I was in San Francisco, in the July of their summer, I needed my winter coat. This February I needed t-shirts, which I hadn’t packed. It was hot. Not just mildly warm, but as if I’d arrived in the middle of summer, except it wasn’t. There were leaves on the trees, magnolias in full bloom, shedding those deep-red-purple centred white petals onto the street. I felt completely disoriented, particularly as I’d come from my own Blue Mountains where – in summer – I’d been needing to wear several jumpers.
Then I went to Portland. It was just the beginning of spring there, crisp air and bright new leaves; daffodils everywhere and crocuses and bluebells and streets full of trees covered in white and pink blossom. It still wasn’t cold enough for the coat, though I did need a rain jacket; but within that spring mood, who minded? It was beautiful and I walked through suburban streets marvelling at gardens, nature strips, the wealth of flowering plants. It reminded me of my mother, who I remembered had liked Portland but spring reminds me of her anyway; her birthday was in spring and she always loved bulbs and planted hundreds of them, to come up in our September spring.
Next was Minneapolis – by now it was nearly the equinox – and it was snowing. There were no leaves on the trees, I watched the beginnings of snow swirl out of sharply cold air down towards me; I needed my coat. The contrast with those other two springs was stark; when I looked closely some trees held leaf buds on their branches but at a distance they were all skeletons, the bones of trees and it was hard to believe that elsewhere spring was rampant, or even past. One morning I woke up and there was snow on the ground, piles of it; the cars in the car park were covered in white mounds, evergreen bushes balanced snowy echoes of their branches, and it stayed there into the afternoon. I was entranced, to me it seemed magical, especially because of the other places I’d just been.
These three different springs, experienced so rapidly, showed me not just the wild variation of spring (within one country) but also my different emotional responses to that one season. In California I felt unsettled by spring, disoriented in its heat and worried about global weather change. Because it’s a city I feel somewhat familiar with, the unfamiliar really challenged me, so that I wasn’t just jet-lagged but season-lagged and city-lagged, I couldn’t get comfortable in that spring. In Portland I had a spring of nostalgia – a classic spring, weather-wise and pictorially, all that blossom, colour, English-style planting. And it was also nostalgic emotionally, continually aware of my mother and remembering myself as a small child, with her, in Melbourne springs that weren’t as extreme as this one, but had connections. The Minneapolis spring was more like a fairy tale to me than a real spring, it seemed both magical and faintly unbelievable; could it be that they really didn’t have leaves on trees for six months of the year?
If I were creating a ritual for the Spring Equinox, how different would it be in each of those places? In San Francisco my concerns and my disorientation would have tipped it towards the political; what’s happening to our planet and what can we do to become more empowered? In Portland I could have had a classic celebration, hiding Easter eggs and playing games with children wouldn’t have been out of place. In Minneapolis my ritual would be about hope, about how much effort and time it can take to blossom. I might include blessings of the trees (whereas in Portland the trees were already blessing us) and maybe ribbons and poems.
I was only in those places for a week or two. I didn’t have time, or the history to know what the birds and animals and insects were doing; and if that spring was the same as every other spring, at that time. As a traveller I got glimpses – of the place, of the season, of myself at that season – and it was the contrast of the three that made such an impression on me, although each of those three springs was remarkable in its own way. Can we look at our own spring – or whatever season it is – as a traveller, and see what’s remarkable about it? Can we learn to create rituals that don’t just celebrate the generalisation of each season, but it’s particulars, for exactly our local version of it? And not even just our generalised local version of it but the particular one we have, this time, this year?
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